Seven vie for two seats on Seattle School Board in primary election

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The chaos, uncertainties and unknowns that parents, students and educators endured last school year in Seattle are motivating candidates to run for a seat on the board of Washington’s largest school district.

Even after pandemic conditions, Seattle had a difficult school year. Former headmistress Denise Juneau decided not to renew her contract because of a strained relationship with the school board. A member of the school management has resigned from office. A civic group tried to call the entire board back because they had not properly planned the students’ return to class. And parents criticized Seattle Public Schools – one of the first boroughs in the country to go isolated – for taking so long to get children back to face-to-face classes.

The voting slip for the primary elections includes two Seattle Public School seats in Districts 4 and 5. A total of seven people are campaigning.

Candidates spoke of the immediate need to improve communication between the district and families and had ideas about what the district needs to invest in or change.

The ballot papers were sent out in mid-July. The deadline for return is August 3rd.

District 4 candidates

Four people are running for District 4, including incumbent Erin Dury, who has replaced former board member Eden Mack. Mack announced her resignation in January, citing security issues and underfunding. District 4 includes Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard.

Dury, a nonprofit organizer and business consultant, was appointed to replace Mack in March and says her focus is on ensuring that quality education is more accessible to marginalized students as the district has not prioritized it in the past .

“Running for the school board wasn’t my career path,” said Dury. “It was an opportunity that was there, that created a way in which I could get more involved and use more of my time and energy.”

Dury said it is important to her to listen to the students as they are most influenced by board decisions. She said her experience of working with other school authorities through her community service gave her a deep understanding of how government funds work.

Also in District 4 is Vivian Song Maritz, who said her 15+ years of experience in private sector finance and management will allow her “immersion into school board budgeting” that current school council members may not. ”

Song Maritz, who speaks Mandarin and has four children currently or soon to be in Seattle, said she could connect with and represent many first-generation students and community members.

“I’m a working class immigrant daughter and when I started school, English was my second language,” she says. “I was that little kid who sat in the back of a Chinese restaurant doing homework while chopping vegetables.”

Song Maritz said she will take a collaborative approach to solving problems, focus on making sure the school budget reflects the district’s values ​​and goals, improve translation services and communication between schools and families, and work on transparency.

To be able to walk, said Song Maritz, she had to move into an apartment in District 4; she previously lived in District 3. She felt the urgency to move because after a year of distance learning “there is a lot of work to do”. Song Maritz also said she is running because there is no Asian representation on the board, although Asian students are one of the largest populations of colored people.

“I recognize that this requires economic privilege and not everyone can do this,” she said.

District candidate Laura Marie Rivera said she had been an educator in the public and private sectors for 30 years, teaching kindergartens, school programs in museums, and arts education for adults and children. Rivera said she will focus on improving special education programs and treating students as individuals who “all have different needs, skills, wants and problems.”

Building partnerships with local, state and federal governments is one of Rivera’s priorities, she said, as the school board is not the only government agency that makes decisions that affect children.

“If we don’t work better together, we won’t achieve anything,” said Rivera.

Rivera pledged to hold monthly community meetings across the city, meet in person with parents, make room for the voices of colored students, and work to remove educational barriers for marginalized communities.

This area code is Herb Camet Jr.’s second choice for District 4 headquarters; in the 2017 elections he lost to Eden Mack. Camet says he has been an educator, teacher, school principal, curriculum specialist and educational advisor in 11 countries for more than 40 years.

“The problem is that the school board is run part-time by amateur volunteers,” Camet said. “Because I’m retired, I can be a full-time member of the school board, not part-time. My intention [is] to be an independent, non-partisan, non-partisan candidate. “

Camet said he is committed to advancing academic achievement and hiring more Black, Asian, Latin American and LGBTQ + employees. (LGBTQ + stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer / questioning, whereby the + denotes everything along the gender and sexuality spectrum.) It also supports the reduction in class size, the expansion of pre-kindergarten offers and a “complete financial re-examination” “of the District programs, services, and expenses.

District 5 candidates

There are three candidates applying for District 5, which includes Downtown, Capitol Hill, Chinatown International District, First Hill, Leschi, Madison, and the Central Area. Board member Zachary DeWolf is no longer running. In April 2019, just over a year after his tenure, DeWolf announced his candidacy for the city council.

Michelle Sarju, who works for King County’s maternal and child health project manager, said the pandemic pushed her to run this year as colored students were hardest hit.

If elected, Sarju said she will campaign for a plan to return students to personal learning and invest in all students, “not just students whose parents can invest time and income at their own discretion” .

Sarju, a midwife, said that social, emotional and mental wellbeing are high on her list and she wants every school to have at least one social worker. The board also needs to find a long-term superintendent, she said, as executive turnover prevents SPS from achieving its goals. (In February, the board of directors selected Brent Jones, a former county administrator, to serve as superintendent for one year as he is conducting a broader search for a permanent replacement.)

Dan Harder, who ran for the state Senate as Republican in 2018, says he is committed to security, excellence and equality. He said he made the choice because he thinks children are wrongly taught that social inequality is caused by deliberate systemic racism.

“I think this is very bad and dark and divides communities and teaches children everything important about them, race and their identity comes from race,” said Harder.

Harder, who has been with Boeing for 23 years, said if chosen he would focus on high student expectations and ensure that the school system “continues to promote equality by providing quality education for all”.

Crystal Liston says she was motivated to run after volunteering in schools and seeing large differences in the resources available on each campus. She was a court service manager, was a chaperone for SAT tests and worked on school art tables and in day care centers. Liston also believes there is a lack of transparency in funding SPS.

“When I say ‘willingly’ people tend to roll their eyes,” she said. “People want me to have a business degree and I see the value in that, but volunteering is huge. I donate my time and my body to be of service. “

Liston would focus on finishing what she considers a “white controlled curriculum” because she believes it is imprecise and harmful to students. It would also prioritize improving transportation for students with disabilities. Liston said she felt it was equally important to work with community members and local administrators.